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Synopsis of Australian Proceedings
In 1998 and 1999 the New South Wales (Australia) Legislative Council, using its power to send for persons, papers and records, succeeded in extracting information from the government by taking measures (under its inherent privileges), including suspending the Treasurer, a member of the legislature, from service in the legislature, its power to do so in that case having been tested and upheld by the Court of Appeal: Egan v Willis and Cahill 1998 158 ALR 527; Egan v Chadwick and others 1999 46 NSWLR 563. Briefly, the facts of the case are that the appellant, Hon M Egan MLC, the Leader of the Government in the Council and Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State Development and Minister Assisting the Premier, was ordered on 1 May 1996, by a resolution of the House, to table certain papers in the Council or deliver them to the Clerk. Consistent with a course of action earlier agreed upon by the Cabinet, Mr Egan did not comply with the order. On 2 May 1996, the Council passed a resolution: adjudging Mr. Egan guilty of a contempt of the House; suspending him from the service of the House for the remainder of the day’s sitting; and ordering him to attend in his place at the Table of the House on the next sitting day to explain his reasons for not complying with the orders of the House to table documents. When Mr Egan refused to leave the House, the President of the Council directed the Usher of the Black Rod to remove Mr. Egan from the chamber and the parliamentary precincts. In response to this, Black Rod removed Mr Egan out on to the footpath of Macquarie Street. On 24 September 1998 the Legislative Council passed a resolution directing the Government to produce by 29 September all documents relating to the contamination of Sydney’s water supply. On 29 September the Clerk of the Council received a letter from the Director General of the Cabinet Office, Roger Wilkins, stating that, further to advice sought from the Crown Solicitor, the Government would not table some documents on the grounds of legal professional privilege and public interest immunity. On 13 October a further resolution was passed again demanding that all documents be produced. The Government once more refused to comply. As a consequence, on 20 October the Treasurer and Leader of the Government in the Upper House, the Hon Michael Egan MLC, was suspended for five sitting days. Some days later, on 24 November, the Legislative Council passed a resolution ordering Mr Egan to produce documents that were the subject of four previous disclosure resolutions. On 26 November, the Council passed a further resolution, adjudging Mr Egan to be in contempt of the House and giving him until the following day to produce all documents as specified. On his failure to comply, Mr Egan was suspended for the remainder of the session and removed from the Chamber by Black Rod. Synopsis by Derek Lee, M.P